From ElateWiki

While the topic of accessibility most often comes up in regards to people with disabilities, it can also have an impact in the usability of a tool for the entire population. Accessibility is a large topic. It is ever changing in regards to standards updates and new forms of adaptive technology.


The Definition of Accessibility

The measure of accessibility is how well someone can access information, tools, files, events, environments... the list is endless. In the past, Accessibility pertained mainly to physical access. In the 1970's city streets and sidewalks changed dramatically with the addition of curb cuts. Curb cuts allowed wheelchairs to cross streets from corner to corner without having to get over a curb. Today we talk more and more about electronic accessibility. We are making electronic curbcuts through the use of current technologies. Rather than crossing a street with a wheelchair, we are making it possible for people who are blind to read articles online.

Accessibility in education translates to classrooms (physical and online) which are easily used by all people, including people with disabilities. This means that we need to take a look at the documents used, the tools we use, and the types of interactions we have online. Accessibility is something to consider up front, when building a tool or document, but more often than not it is an easy addition to our current processes of creation.

Adaptive Technology

Just as there are various web browsers for different platforms and purposes that create unique experiences for users, there are computer programs which create unique experiences for working with other file types. One category of these programs is called "adaptive technology." Adaptive technology addresses the shortcomings of technology and adapts the environment to the needs of the user and is most often used for people with disabilities.

Examples of Adaptive Technology

  • Examples of adaptive technology include:
    • Screen readers which turn the entire graphical user interface (GUI), we know as Windows, into audio output. One example is Job Access With Speech (JAWS).
    • Text-to-Speech which takes any text on the screen and reads it to the user with a computerized voice. An free example of this program is called NaturalReaders. Call centers use this technology to read menus over the phone to customers.
    • Speech-to-Text technology listens to your voice and places the text on the screen. This technology acts like a keyboard. Dragon Naturally Speaking is one example of this technology. This technology can be found in most cell phones, commonly referred to as Voice Recognition.
    • Screen magnification programs zoom in on parts of the computer screen. Screen magnification is built into every operating system, but higher quality software is often recommended. ZoomText is a good example of high quality software.
    • Hardware is also another form of Adaptive Technology. There are many devices on the market; in fact, when looking at keyboards and mice in a store you are often looking for the best adaptive technology to fit your needs. Adaptive technology hardware for people with disabilities includes trackball mice or ergonomic keyboards.

Content Guidelines

When making files accessible there are a number of rules to follow. Essentially the goal is making sure that information can be seen, enlarged, and heard. If you are working with text, make sure that it can be copied. If you are working with video, make sure that the audio portion is transcribed. If you are working with graphics, make sure that you have a text equivalent that can be read by adaptive technology.

There are things to keep in mind with each file type.

Word Documents/ Text Files

PDF files



See Also